I wouldn’t have thought that I’d leave Ireland with my fondest memory being of a beach. A beach. In Ireland. As in “The Emerald Isle”. THAT Ireland. It just goes to show how my preconceptions were wrong.
Ireland wasn’t what I thought it would be – but more on that in another post – but as a person who thoroughly loves surprises (unless we’re talking parties, then no thank you!) I can honestly say that this unexpected piece of land blew my mind. I’m now considering plastering the walls of my house with images of it. Not kidding. I went a little mental with the camera…
I rocked up here knowing that I’d booked an Airbnb near the coast. I saw the beach marked on Google Maps. No, I’m not the kind of person who goes scrolling through images endlessly before I arrive somewhere…that’s the fun of going! I want to see things through my eyes for the first time, not someone else’s (there are exceptions, of course).
A beautiful old cottage with a coal burning fire and a stroll down the lane later, my eyes are in literal heaven. My heart skips a beat as I inhale and forget to exhale again. My jaw opens and stays open. The sun is setting and the sky is deep blue. Thick grey cloud moves to cover the fiery orange orb in front of me. Sunlight beams through the cloud over the open ocean. The waves gently lap the shoreline but become fiercer, splashing my boots to excess (seriously, this is the first and only time I’ve gotten wet feet in my Dr Martens). I look left, and then right. There’s a few people meandering along the dunes, a child playing in the puddles left by the Atlantic Ocean, tracing lines in the sand with a stick. Time has stopped. I forget what country I’m in. The salty evening air washes over me like a fever, and I fall to the spell of Glassilaun.
I’m up before the early bird. I gulp a coffee, force myself to eat some soda bread, grab my boots and my phone, and run out the door. Literally.
I have the beach to myself. Not a living soul around. Not a footprint in the sand. Pristine. Untouched. The sky is pale blue, the sea at least three or four distinctive colours. The early morning fog sits atop the mountain to my right, the sun peeking out on the horizon to my left. Rocks protrude from the sea and are gently lapped with waves. Birds dive to catch fish. The sand shimmers a glittery blue in the sunlight. The tubular beach grasses blow gently in the breeze.
As the wind picks up it creates patterns in the sand. With vast amounts blown in to me my black all-weather coat slowly changes colour. I put my hood up to save my ears, wear my sunglasses to save my eyes – to no avail. I was finding sand for days. If it weren’t for the wind making it physically difficult to stand up, I could have stayed still for hours. I took shelter between the highest sand dunes, my back at least to the prevailing sand storm!
Something catches my eye. Is that…dogs? Where are their humans? No…surely… hares! They scurry along the beach at breakneck speed and disappear into the grassy dunes. I sit myself on a rock, waiting, still. They don’t return. I’ve walked myself down a mildly steep sand dune to get here, I’m sheltered from the rest of the beach which is blocked by big rocks and clumps of grass. I don’t know how long I was sitting waiting for the hares to return, but as I turn the corner, deciding to avoid being buried alive by sand and instead walking a different route through the waves, I notice I’m no longer alone. My solitude is broken by scores of people carelessly making messy footprints on the otherwise-immaculate white sand. Creating noise where there need be none. This is my beach, my discovery, I wanted it to stay that way.
I left a piece of my soul there. If I close my eyes I see it now. I remember the feeling of euphoria. It’s not often that a place moves you like this, captivates every atom in your body, so when it does, you know it’s special.
If you want an Ireland that you weren’t expecting, pick the roads less travelled – literally – and see where they take you.